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S'pore population could hit 6.9m by 2030

Publication Date : 30-01-2013


Singapore's population could grow to 6.9 million in 2030 as the government moves to tackle the serious demographic double whammy of a shrinking and ageing population.

Of that, the resident population of citizens and permanent residents will likely be around 4.4 million. The core of citizens is projected to number 3.8 million, or just over half the total population.

The non-resident foreigner ranks - comprising foreign workers, expatriates and students - will make up 36 per cent of the population, up from 28 per cent now.

They are projected to number 2.5 million in 2030, up from 1.5 million now.

While unveiling this scenario in a widely anticipated Population White Paper yesterday, the government sought to pre-empt anxieties with assurances that it is planning ahead to cope with the projected population growth and avoid "today's problem" of over-crowding and infrastructural strain.

Land has been identified for 700,000 new homes - complete with recreational areas and green spaces. More details will be out later this week.

Plans are also in place to double the rail network by 2030, and 80 per cent of households should be within 10 minutes' walking distance from an MRT station.

Even with 6.9 million people, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean emphasised yesterday, Singapore's density will be 13,000 people per sq km - considerably lower than Hong Kong's 22,000 per sq km.

He was flanked by six ministers as he laid out the Government's population road map, which he said has three components.

The first is a push to grow the Singaporean core through a S$2 billion-a-year (US$1.6 billion) package to encourage marriage and parenthood, announced last week.

The second is to sustain the sort of dynamic economy that produces top jobs for the more highly educated citizen core.

By 2030, he noted, two-thirds of the local workforce will be in the professional, manager, engineer and technician (PMET) category, and will aspire to more highly skilled and rewarding jobs.

These, said Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, come "when you have good companies coming here". For that reason, he noted, the doors must remain open to global talent.

The third is to maintain a high-quality living environment for Singaporeans that avoids the strain of recent years.

Commenting on the population road map on Facebook yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the government's goal is to ensure that "Singapore continues thriving, for the sake of our younger generation".

The White Paper projects that the workforce will expand at 1 per cent to 2 per cent a year from now until 2020. From 2020 to 2030, it will drop to 1 per cent a year.

The bulk of the growth will be from injections of foreign manpower as Singaporean baby-boomers age and leave the workforce.

These projected growth rates are a fraction of the pace at which the workforce had expanded in the past. From 1980 to 2010, it grew at 3.3 per cent on average every year.

In fact, economists said yesterday that businesses should prepare themselves for more curbs on foreign workers to come if these new growth rates are to be adhered to.

Coupled with a hoped-for 2 to 3 per cent rise in productivity every year, the White Paper projects yearly economic growth of 3 to 5 per cent from now until 2020.

From 2020 to 2030, the projected growth rate is 2 to 3 per cent annually - "not scintillating, but not sedentary", said Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.

Asked what message he had for Singaporeans who might be uncomfortable with the population projections, DPM Teo said the Government is trying to find "the appropriate balance" between its conflicting national priorities.

There are no simple solutions, he said, and he expects different views and "a full debate" when he seeks Parliament's endorsement next week.


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